A young pair of siblings from the Philippines has gone viral after their extraordinary story made headlines.
John Michael Belida, 14, and his disabled sister, Ella Mae Belida, 12, recently graduated together after John Michael carried Ella Mae, who is unable to walk, back and forth to school each day.
According to World of Buzz, at just 11 months old Ella Mae fell 2 feet to the ground and injured her pelvic area. Throughout her life following the incident, she has suffered from irregular bowel movements and high fevers in addition to struggling to walk.
“She was still able to walk a few steps with a cane until she was seven. But after that, she couldn’t carry her own weight,” according to her mother, Erlinda.
The impoverished family lacked the means to send Ella Mae to a specialist for her condition.
Although the preteen’s parents asked her to stay home to be cared for, she insisted on going to school.
“It pains me to see my children suffer. But my daughter is a fighter and she told me, ‘Ma, I have to finish school so I can help you and father,’” Erlinda said.
In an effort to save his parents' money and help his sister continue pursuing her education, John Michael would carry his roughly 88-pound sister on his back and walk the nearly one mile distance to Looc Norte Elementary School.
“She’s heavy and it’s tiring, but I did it so that she could finish school,” John Michael reportedly told SunStar Cebu.
“I get angry when people look at her and call her names. But she always retaliates and tells the bullies off,” he added.
They were able to graduate together because John Michael skipped school for a year so that he could be on par with Ella Mae and they could finish out the term with each other.
Their story went viral once a neighbor named Leonard Nunez posted a photo of the Belida siblings at graduation with Ella Mae, again, on her brother’s back.
As the story spread, people were moved to help the Belida family. They have since being given four wheelchairs, a pair of crutches, a bicycle, and school supplies for the siblings, World of Buzz reports.
John Michael said that even with their new resources, he will still be carrying his sister.
“I will carry her no matter what. I hope someone can support her studies. She wants to take up a computer course,” he said.
According to Sunstar Cebu, the Municipality of Asturias has sent both Ella Mae and John Michael to a specialist for medical check-ups.
Imagine that — all it took was a photo on social media spreading awareness of the family's plight, and now they are receiving all the help they could ever ask for. This represents the best of humanity.